CM Punk famously branded WWE as "The Reality Era" and the company endorsed it. By definition, the Reality Era betokens an era in which both psychology and verisimilitude are the focal points of the show. Kindred to Punk’s worked-shoot promos, the era additionally perambulates a thin-line between kayfabe and breaking the fourth wall. It is concisely a period where reality and fiction amalgamate together and therefore has little otherness between the two.
But is the WWE’s product really built off reality anymore?
Aside from the Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman duo, the product lacks virtually anything that bears a resemblance to reality. Lesnar and Heyman are frankly the only parts of the product that come across as extremely legitimate. However, the lack of reality goes further than its wrestler’s one-dimensional characters. It starts with the micro-edited structure of its chief show: Monday Night Raw, and to be frank, WWE has overused their weekly structure insofar as it is a foregone conclusion of what will transpire next.
Oftentimes, in wrestling, outcomes are predictable merely because the outcome is the most logical decision to make. Daniel Bryan, for example, winning at WrestleMania 30 was a foregone conclusion, but nobody would have wanted it any other way. The complainers rarely enjoy the outcome and that is why they condemn it. Nevertheless, there is a radical dissimilarity between predictable outcomes and predictable structure of a televised show. After all, a predictable structure is never a good trait for a show, particularly when it is three-hours every week.
But, in contrast to what many people think, Raw being three-hours is not thee biggest problem. It is WWE’s inability to put on a compelling three hour show. It could out on a compelling three-hour product, especially if it did not lack so much content on it. Raw is simply a two-hour show overstretched into three, leaving an entire hour or so of filler on the show, enough emptiness to exhaust viewers.
WWE constructs Raw in a manner where only the top of the hour segments matter. The show customarily has a 20-minute promo that sets up the main event for the show. Since WWE does not place a heavy emphasis on its lower-to-mid-card, the opening segment usually overstays its welcome to waste time.
The next important segment occurs at the 9’oclock hour. And in the slower times of the year, the company will shoehorn someone big into the segment like a John Cena or Randy Orton in spite of them having nothing that important to say. Then, the next important segment occurs at the 10’clock hour. Again, this is when something important happens or a top-tier main eventer comes out. Lastly, near the 11’clock hour, WWE has either a match or a segment. Sometimes, the company does something important during the overrun. And, the rest of Raw is infested with hackneyed backstage promos, hokey comedy segment and matches mean next to nothing.
Due to the uninventive format, Monday Night Raw comes off more contrived than anything else. And due to the WWE tightly running its ship and micromanaging everything, it makes it excessively problematic for the wrestlers to add believability, passion or emotion into anything they do or say.
Furthermore, WWE’s angles rarely insulate something that is based on reality. Truthfully, most WWE’s mid-card feuds occur because the wrestlers exchange wins and most of their main event angles are antiquated concepts that have become ad nauseam. WWE has set its programing back 20 years; and, worse of all, the ideas were even mundane back then.
Although, those ideas were not as offensive as they are now. WWE is a company trapped inside its own bubble, unaware of its surroundings and the times. The company is oblivious of how comprehensive its online coverage has become and that people fully see through its timeworn, derivative and contradictive booking. Seth Rollins and Randy Orton’s feud is an archetypical illustration of that – as it is pretending a cage match disallows any interference and that Rollins banning the RKO is the biggest disadvantage to Orton (albeit blindfolding him or making him tie both his hands behind his back would have handicapped it much more).
WWE uses identical templates to build feuds, but then tries persuading its audience that it will not conclude the same way. That is one of the biggest problem with the announcing team. Instead of them calling the action and describing the wrestler’s game plans and motives, they will try to persuade the viewers that John Cena may not comeback from a simplistic beat-down, for example. The company will also pretend some parts of its history does not exist, purely because they are too lazy to enable it to fit into the context of the story they are emanating.
If WWE’s main storyline is uninteresting, the rest of the product follows suit. That is because they make everyone who is not a top-tier main adventure as interchangeable as possible – by virtue of giving them no character-arcs or a chance to evolve their characters. Because WWE wants to control who is on top, mid-carders just trade off wins so that nobody gets over. Worse of all, whenever something intriguing does happen in the main event scene, it will eventually press the restart button and return to its normal stagnate self.
The company has both an unparalleled roster and road agents who can creatively construct matches. However, the insultingly hypocritical storytelling, the oversimplified booking, the timeworn angles, the misusage of talent and the company unable to identify itself, is making it extremely insipid and a chore to watch.
Frankly, WWE is no longer in the reality era – it is more so in the identity crisis era.